New cubs for Pyrenees bears

The bears arouse strong opinions both for and against

The endangered French bear population is growing, but supporters are looking to government for action to keep numbers up

PYRENEES bears have had three or four cubs this year – putting the known population up to about 24.

The good news (for those who support efforts to maintain a bear population in the mountains) comes as experts on the Spanish side told French counterparts they had observed bear cub prints – and then taken a photo of a female bear, “Caramelles”, with two young.

The organiser of a body monitoring the bears in France, Alain Reynes of Pays de l’Ours-Adet, said: “Caramelles was born in 1997 and it’s not the first time she’s had a litter. Prints were also found of a little cub alongside those of another but we lack precise data, we don’t know if there were one or two cubs.”

At the end of 2011 there were thought to be about 21 bears in the Pyrenees, therefore there may now be 24 or 25, however precise facts about numbers will have to wait.

Supporters of the bears are hoping that a different male bear is the father this time, as one bear – called Pyros – has been the father of all the young for several years; more genetic diversity would be healthy for the population.

“Even with these births the bears remain a species in critical danger of extinction,” Mr Reynes told local paper, “em>Le Petit Bleu. “We have high hopes for the government biodiversity conference next month to find out what the government is planning to do for the bears.”

Supporters say the government has a duty to help the bear population under a European “habitats” directive, and that the conference will be the ideal moment to address the problem. A previous official plan to help the bears expired in 2009.

The last government backtracked on promises to introduce a new bear last year, following protests from farmers who say they are dangerous to their livestock.

Three were introduced from Slovenia in 1996-7 and five in 2006 to boost the native population, however the last bear of original Pyrenees stock was shot by a hunter in 2004.

The Pyrenees is the last bear habitat in France.

Photo: Pays de l'Ours-Adet

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